Tuesday, December 11, 2012

I meant what I said, and I said what I meant

My friend Sandy, who is awesome, wrote a blog post for Feminist Mormon Housewives today. You can read it here. (Her regular blog here.)

Now, if you've read that, you may want to just skip what I have to say. Because it won't make you feel any better or worse about your position, if any, whatever it is.

Prepare for a long-winded, indecisive rant, friendos.

When some friends of mine online suggested that Mormon Feminists start doing some stuff to remind people that, much like those Whos of Whoville, we are here, I was all about it. As much as certain things about the LDS Church bug me sometimes, I suspect that if more people knew about them, more people would say, "Hey, that bugs me too! Let's fix that." PROGRESS FOR EVERYONE!

Then one of them suggested, "Hey, why don't we all wear pants to church one Sunday?" and my enthusiasm plummeted.

I know, I know. Why wouldn't I be supportive?

Do I think women should be "allowed" to wear pants to church? Of course. I'm not the fashion police -- and what's more, the LDS Church has said since the 1970s that there's no official church dress code for the ladies. Go forth and wear pants, friends!

Do I think that, given the standard of "Sunday best," I own dress pants that are nicer than some of the dresses and skirts I own? Absolutely. My job can sometimes require a fairly formal dress code, and I wear suits and dresses pretty interchangeably. I don't think that one outfit is particularly better than another just because the structures are different. I also think anyone who insists that an informal dress (or jersey maxi skirt, boots, and a Northface pullover, you know who you are ...) is more appropriate for church than a pair of nice wool slacks on the basis of "Well, it's a dress!" is just kidding themselves.

Part of it is just that I don't want to wear pants to church. Period. It's not social conditioning or peer pressure (at age 28, I'm sort of past that sort of thing). I just ... don't want to. The tomboy Ru of my childhood would probably be like, "YES! Pants to church!"

But adult Ru is like, "Well, I would be warmer ... but I just like a good reason to wear a dress. Sue me." I don't feel more or less reverent, more or less respectful, in a dress. I just like dresses. And by the end of a regular work week, a lot of times I am just kind of sick of slacks. And that seems like a good enough reason to wear a dress.

But that isn't the reason I feel squeamish. The real reason was simple: a big part of me just knew, "This is going to get misconstrued. By a lot of people."

Because I don't care about pants. And I can't stand that people still confuse concepts of "sameness" and "equality." Every enemy of feminism ever has attempted to equate the demand for equal rights to  the imaginary demand for breastfeeding men and women who can pee standing up. (STRAWMAN ARGUMENT ALERT.)

I don't want to be a man. I like being a woman. I just wanted to get treated as well as a man because there is no justifiable reason why I shouldn't be.

I want women to have equal say about church finances. I want the Young Women's program to be as well-funded as the Young Men's. I want non-priesthood church positions to be filled equally by men and women. I want to see a woman pray in General Conference. And heck, why not have a woman speaker at Priesthood session of conference? Men speak in the Relief Society general, and some of the men in the audience could probably use the reminder that sometimes women have authority, too. 

Newsflash: I don't even want the priesthood. I mean, it's cool if you do, but the things I want (women who have children at home to be eligible to be seminary teachers -- maybe we'd have a few less creepster seminary teachers out there, amiright?!) have more to do with the institutional structure of the church than anything.

I want so many things to be better about the LDS Church. Things that I think most people would agree with, if they weren't so convinced that feminists want to kidnap pregnant women off the street and force them to have abortions.

And people are going to see the word "pants" and think all I want are different genitals. Because let's be honest -- our society is not big on the "critical thought" thing.

So even though I supported the basic idea presented, I thought I wasn't going to participate. I didn't want to take away from the event, so I was just going to keep silent, but I didn't want to offer my support, either.

But then.

The "decline" responses to the facebook invitation started pouring in. The anti-pants crowd is, in a word, insane. I knew there would be some misunderstanding of the motives of the group, but seriously. Heaven forbid you ask an LDS woman to wear nice slacks and pearls instead of a frumpster denim jumper this Sunday, because she will throw down. Sweet spirits? Ha.

And then on the "accept" side, I saw so many things that I thought couldn't possibly be happening. One gentleman shared that an usher in a ward in Arizona actually TURNED HIS GRANDMOTHER AWAY because she wore a pantsuit after hip surgery on Easter Sunday.

(Let's all just pause for a moment to consider that. Grandmother ... hip surgery ... Easter. NO CHURCH FOR YOU, PANTSY.)

So what am I going to wear to church on Sunday? Beats me, honestly. On one hand, I want to support a group and a cause I care a lot about. On the other, I think this is not the best way to raise awareness of our concerns. Back to the other hand, I can't quite believe the level of cray that surrounding this whole thing, and the obstinate lawyer in me wants to jump to the side of the down-trodden.


But I love Horton Hears A Who!

In short, I am muddled, friends. So any thoughts you might able to offer, I would really appreciate.

Keeping in mind, of course, that in the end I might choose to declare this Sunday a mental health day and just stay home.

Yay feminism!

And yay (maybe) pants!


  1. This comment has been removed by the author.

  2. I'll wear heels if you wear pants.

    (Previous comment deleted because I used the wrong kind of wear.)

    1. That's a dangerous wager you're making ...

    2. This might be reason enough to convince you to wear pants. If it happens, you HAVE to take and subsequently share the pics.

    3. I found the heels I wore for a Hetro-Drag Show I was in in college...balls in your court now Ru.

    4. Colt, prepare to strut those high heels. It is on.

    5. Tis done, I'll send photographic evidence.

  3. I say let people wear whatever they feel like wearing. If you want to wear pants, do. If you want to wear a dress, do. I don't really understand what this pants thing is supposed to prove.

  4. I didn't realize the Young Women were less well funded than the Young Mens. I guess that's why the Relief Society budgets are so much higher than Elders Qourum.

    1. I don't know if that's the case in every ward, unfortunately. I've actually never heard that, until you mentioned it. Nearly every ward clerk who has discussed this with me has mentioned that Young Men's gets the bulk of ALL the ward's funding. So even if RS does get more than the Elders Quorum, the Scouts and Young Men's still gets the most of anyone.

      Regardless, I don't see why we'd "make up" for giving our teenage girls less by giving adult women more. The church is losing its young female members, and I think a lot of that is due to the fact that young women perceive an inequality with the way they are treated. I was fortunate to grow up in a ward where our YW leaders organized events that were equal to what the boys were doing -- when the boys got a ski day, so did we. But that was due, in part, to being in a wealthier neighborhood where our YW leaders subsidized our activities, a fact I didn't realize until I grew up and moved to a different ward. I have many friends who, growing up, watched the boys go off on white water rafting trips while they stayed home and had a cookie baking activity. Six years (ages 12-18) is a long time to bake cookies.

      It just seems obvious that there ought to be a way to make sure everyone gets what they need. Give the service committee (both men and women) enough to make sure the adults and families in the ward are taken care of, the activities committee (men and women) enough to make sure everyone has some solid activities to look forward to, and then EQ and RS the same nominal amount for incidentals. The same goes for the kids. And if there's confusion, why not just be more open about what we're doing? If more members of the ward understood the money the ward was working with, maybe people would be more respectful about limited resources. (Thinking primarily about the upkeep of chapels here.)

      It's just a cultural thing. For ages, we've expected the boys to earn their Eagle Scouts and supported them in doing so, and that's a great thing. But at some point, shouldn't we also be doing things that keep the girls engaged in church?

    2. "I have many friends who, growing up, watched the boys go off on white water rafting trips while they stayed home and had a cookie baking activity."

      This was totally my experience in YW. And I was Beehive and Laurel president, so I was the one proposing we go do awesome stuff. I know for a fact it wasn't because we didn't ask for it, because I WAS THE ONE DOING THE ASKING!

      I was told we couldn't go rafting without special permission from someone (area authority, if I remember correctly). We couldn't go rockclimbing, we couldn't go on an overnight trip without super special permission that my bishop wasn't willing to ask for. These were all things the YM got to do.

      Instead we quilted and cooked and scrapbooked. Don't get me wrong. I actually enjoy all of those activities. But I became a very frustrated teenager when those were the only things we could do.

    3. My experience exactly. The week I learned to crochet, the young men were not there, because that weekend they were going kayaking. Im a tomboy, who was always trying to live up to my brothers expectations. I got to watch them go camping with my dad and the scouts so many times they became sick of it and didn't want to go anymore, while I was begging to know why I wasn't invited. Then when I was a YW I got to go repelling twice, during girls camp, but that was it. Once when I was 15, and once when I was leading the 15 year olds. Really? I own my own repelling equipment now, and my husband and I plan on becoming the cool couple in our new ward, and I plan on showing the young women they can be brave. I hope that one day I am called to be the YW president so that I can be the one to pull the strings for those adventurous girls like me.

      Wearing pants is not the same as speaking up about important issues.

  5. When my family first joined the church me and my sister regularly wore dress pants on Sunday. Even a few other YW started doing it. We had no idea that it was frowned upon. Then they made an announcement during Sacrament meeting about the proper way to dress to church and wearing dress pants was on the no-no list. It didn't bother me too much, and it still doesn't, but I'm sure there were a few girls who were upset. I agree that certain things about the value of women in the Church do need to change. I don't want the Priesthood, I feel valued by my husband and other women around me, but that's not the case for everyone. I do think that the Scouting organization needs serious overhaul (don't even get me started on how unfair it is that if a boy doesn't want to be in boy scouts he basically has nothing else to do on Mutual nights since most of the YM program is scouting). As a YW leader I've had several girls ask me why women can't hold the Priesthood, my answer is 'because the men need it more than the women'. The church has made strides to give more equality to women and show that we are appreciated and not just around to repopulate the Earth, but as a mother of both girls and boys, there needs to be more. I agree with everything that you said, why isn't there a female speaker during the Priesthood session? Anyway, sorry to rant on, but I agree, the church needs to make a greater effort when it comes to the women in the church. Especially since we're not living in the 1950s anymore.

    1. "my answer is 'because the men need it more than the women'."

      This is not meant to be a personal attack on the original commenter, but I REALLY hate this answer. Why do women and men have to justify women's inequality in the LDS church by putting men down? And many men I know have internalized this message that they are weaker or less than and they need the Priesthood to keep them in line.

      The solution to putting one group down is not to put the other group down.

    2. I'd never really thought of it that way, but you're right. This is a question that many girls are asking nowadays and I'm sure my daughters will too. On your previous comment about girls not being able to go rock climbing and go on rafting trips, I was fortunate enough that during my junior and senior years my ward back east started high adventure for girls 14+ and was able to do both those things, so it can be done. I really want my daughters to have those opportunities through YW as well.

    3. That's awesome! I hope more wards are able to get the YW out doing different activities. I don't find anything wrong with quilting, but I think YW would benefit and learn a lot from planning and going on a rafting trip or something similar. Plus it would just be a lot of fun. :)

    4. Prerna - I'm so glad your ward is going to let the girls start doing those activities, too! I agree with Di, it's good for girls to get a well-rounded church experience :)

  6. Could you wear a dress, and also wear a white shirt with a woman-ish necktie? Or is that just weird? I am not super fashionable, so I'm just throwing a new idea into the mix.

    1. I think if I were MORE fashionable, I could pull that off. But I'm not :)

  7. I'm wearing pants because I want to see if any other women in my ward wear pants. Or if they thought about it and decided against it. Or if they are one of the crazies who posted about women wanting to be men on facebook, maybe they'll confront me and I'll finally have an archnemesis.

    Kidding, sort of.

    1. If you get an archnemesis out this, you MUST share :)

  8. I'm exactly where you are in all of this.

  9. I'm with you. Totally don't know what I'll do on Sunday. And yeah ... That FB event page is nutso. Ten minutes there and my energy for the day has been zapped.

    1. Seriously. Some of those people make me depressed about life.

  10. Totally agree. Great post my dear :)

  11. I wish I hadn't removed myself from the church, because I would totally go and wear pants just to upset one of the crazies.

    I admire the people fighting this charge, but I am actually kind of nervous for some of them (just as far as repercussions like disfellowship, excommunication, etc).

    I know the argument is that it takes time, and maybe with enough people taking part things will change, but I am doubtful. Has there ever been a black man in the quorem of the twelve? Or even someone who is just not white?

    Anyway, back to your decision. If you go to church, will you be sad if you see other women wearing pants? Would it be fun to just annoy someone? If you would rather just pass, go skiing and don't feel guilty about it.

  12. I haven't visited your blog in a while, and I admit I came here tonight just to see if you'd blogged about "Pantsgate." I haven't thought about anything but the pants for DAYS--so, thanks for obligingly feeding my sick addiction :) My thoughts mirror yours. I don't actually want to wear pants. But I believe in the cause of equality. I question the efficacy of "wear x article of clothing on y day to support z cause" awareness campaigns. But now I'd show up to church in a sequined Elvis suit just to stick it to the poisonous crazies on Facebook. It's quite a conundrum.

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